Born: February 14, 1936
Daniel Nathan Lewis was born February 14, 1936 in Freehold. Big and quick, he was drawn to football as a boy and enjoyed an outstanding career at Freehold High (Bruce Springsteen’s alma mater). The Colonials drew from several towns in Monmouth County, which translated into perennially strong football teams. The 1953 squad went undefeated, winning the conference and Central Jersey titles. Danny, a senior, was the team’s star halfback. He teamed with quarterback Jack Mayes and receiver Walt Freeman to give the Colonials a devastating offensive attack.
Danny was on everyone’s recruiting list. He ended up accepting a scholarship from the University of Wisconsin. Danny had big shoes to fill when he made the Badgers varsity in 1955, as senior Alan Ameche had broken all kinds of school records the year before. The Badgers went 11-13-3 during Danny’s three seasons, making the Top 20 in 1957 with a 6–3 record under coach Milt Bruhn. That year. He gained 611 yards on 95 rushes, and added another 171 yards on 12 catches. He scored 6 touchdowns and was 9th in the nation and 3rd in the Big Ten with an average of 6.4 yards per carry. He graduated second in school history to Ameche in career rushing yards.
At 6’1” and 200 pounds, Danny was an appealing player to the pros. In the 1958 draft, the Detroit Lions took him in the 6th round with the 73rd overall pick. The Lions, coming of an NFL title, had an exceptional draft that spring. Besides Danny they also picked up defensive stars Wayne Walker and Alex Karras. Danny was known as an outside running threat, but in the College All-Star Game (against the Lions) he pounded the ball inside for several impressive gains as a Lion, not an All-Star. He had been passed over by the All-Star coaches and instead reported to the Lions training camp when it opened.
Danny played six seasons for Detroit, teaming with Nick Pietrosante for several years to give the Lions a formidable 1–2 punch. Danny’s best season as a pro was 1962, when he led the team with 488 rushing yards and scored 7 touchdowns. That Detroit team won 11 games, but could easily have run the table. At no time during the season did they trail an opponent by more than a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Packers went 13–1 (their only loss being to the Lions). In 1964, his final year with Detroit, he scored on a 92-yard pass, the second-longest in the NFL that season.
Danny finished his pro career with the Redskins and Giants, playing one year with each club. He amassed a total of 3,205 rushing yards and caught 99 passes for another 1,162 yards, scoring 24 touchdowns in all. Danny also returned 30 kickoffs for 535 yards.